Golden eagles are no mere flight of fancy in Donegal. Glenveagh National Park in the northern part of the county is the focal point of a programme for the re-introduction of this magnificent bird to Ireland – it was last seen here in 1912. The first six Scottish-born chicks of the new wave were released at Glenveagh in June 2001. By the end of 2004, 15 adult birds were soaring over Donegal, with a further nine sightings to the south in Sligo and Leitrim. Over a five year period, 50 birds have been released, and the high expectations of success for the project began to be fulfilled with the first chick hatched and fledged in 2007.
Travel at sea level is also an increasingly significant element in visits to Donegal, one of Ireland's most spectacularly beautiful counties. It is much-indented by the sea, but the introduction of local car ferry services is shortening journeys and adding interest. The ferry between Greencastle and Magilligan across the narrow entrance to Lough Foyle has become deservedly popular, and another car ferry – between Buncrana and Rathmullan across Lough Swilly – adds to the travel options, albeit at a more leisurely pace.
For many folk, particularly those from Northern Ireland, Donegal is the holiday county par excellence. But in recent years, despite the international fluctuations of trading conditions, there has been growth of modern industries and the re-structuring of the fishing, particularly at the developing harbour of Killybegs, home port for the largest fishing vessels. This Donegal entrepreneurial spirit has led to a more balanced economy, with the pace being set by the county town of Letterkenny, where the population has increased by 50% since 1991. More recently. Letterkenny has become home to an impressive Arts Centre, a masterpiece of modern architecture. And if a more traditional townscape is preferred, Glenties in the southwest of the county has been national winner of the Tidy Towns competition five times in the past fifty years, and was the first title-holder in 1958.
But much and all as Donegal county is increasingly a place where people live and make a living, nevertheless it is still a place of nature on the grand scale, where the landscape is challenged by the winds and weather of the Atlantic Ocean if given the slighest chance. Yet at communities like Bundoran and Rossnowlagh, where splendid beaches face straight into the Atlantic, enthusiastic surfers have demonstrated that even the most demanding weather can have its sporting uses.
For most folk, however, it is the contrast between raw nature and homely comfort which is central to Donegal's enduring attraction. For here, in some of Ireland's most rugged territory, you will find many sheltered and hospitable places whose amenities are emphasised by the challenging nature of their broader environment. And needless to say, that environment is simply startlingly utterly beautiful as well.
Local Attractions and Information
Arranmore Ferry Burtonport-Arranmore +353 (0)74 952 0532
Ballintra Ballymagroarty Heritage Centre +353 (0)74 973 4966
Buncrana Lough Swilly Ferry +353 (0)74 938 1901
Buncrana National Knitting Centre +353 (0)74 936 2355
Bundoran Tourism Information +353 (0)71 9841350
Churchill Glebe House & Gallery (Derek Hill) +353 (0)74 9137071
Donegal Airport Carrickfin +353 (0)74 954 8232
Donegal Highlands Hillwalking/Irish lang.(adults) +353 (0)74 973 0248
Donegal town Donegal Castle +353 (0)74 972 2405
Donegal town Tourism information +353 (0)74 972 1148
Donegal town Waterbus Cruises +353 (0)74 9721148
Dunfanaghy Workhouse Visitor Centre +353 (0)74 913 6504
Dungloe Mary from Dungloe Int. Festival (July/August)
Dungloe Tourism Information +353 (0)74 952 1297
Glencolumbcille Folk Museum +353 (0)74 973 0017
Glencolumbcille Tourism Information +353 (0)74 973 0017
Glenties Patrick Mac Gill Summer School (August)
Glenveagh National Park (Castle, gardens, parkland) +353 074 913 7088
Greencastle Lough Foyle Ferry +353 (0)74 938 1901
Greencastle Maritime Museum +353 (0)74 938 1363
Inishowen Inishowen Tourism (Carndonagh) +353 (0)74 937 4933
Letterkenny An Grianan Theatre +353 (0)74 912 0777
Letterkenny Arts Centre +353 (0)74 912 9186
Letterkenny Earagail Arts Festival +353 (0)74 912 9186
Letterkenny County Museum +353 (0)74 912 4613
Letterkenny Newmills Watermill +353 (0)74 912 5115
Letterkenny North West Tourism +353 (0)74 912 1160
Lifford Cavanacor Historic House +353 (0)74 914 1143
Rathmullan Lough Swilly Ferry +353 (0)74 938 1901
Tory Island Ferry +353 (0)74 953 1320